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Composition and clothing issues

        I was commissioned to paint a family portrait - my very first one... at base price to build my portfolio. I met with the client yesterday, and I showed her many of Sargent's painting, including family portraits from Sargent as well as other impressionists from the era. We talked not only about the composition, but the colors that the subjects wore. 

This is a formal painting. 

We decided for her to wear a beautiful red dress, her daughter in white... the issue then arose as to what her two young boys should wear an her husband... if his tie should match her dress... what about the boys...etc... 

I explained that when the painting is warm in color, that a lot of the colors would match because the entire painting is warm... but photography and the way they shoot portraits has infected our thinking. 

I do love a nice red - and white for the 2 year old baby girl - symbolizing the purity of baby girls... etc... but what do you think her husband and boys should wear besides the obvious - suites - or sport jacket - what colors? 

Her room is ivory white background....


  • I will  be happy to share my opinion with you but; as someone already said before  "It's hard to help without photo examples"  ;)
  • @Markalex777.I understand your concerns. Your clients have to wear something and if you are not using an existing photo, then you have to take one. How much of the clothing will be showing, could you not focus on the heads and shoulders ? Is it going to be a "Formal" pose or casual ? If the dresses are fussy or formal then the guys will have to dress formally too . Google some modern portraits, perhaps the guys could wear shirts without ties to make it less formal. If you wanted all the sitters to wear white then you could change the background to a mottled background, the kind you get in a photographer's studio. Perhaps someone else will give you some advice, I am not experienced enough.
  • Have them pose for photos dressed in one way and then have them change.  Take lots and lots of photos in different areas of the house.  Even if it is a "formal" portrait, there isn't any need for it to be stiff and fussy.

  • @Markalex777   Have you tried a Google Images search for "family portraits in oil"?  A lot of good examples there.  Summer
  • Thank you all so much. I know i haven't been online in awhile as i started a day job to get by. The family ran into some health issues with the kids, flu, inner ear infection, etc... so it has been delayed till march for the sitting... than you all for the there any great book out there that talks about composition, colors, poses, and clothing - i wish there was i would totally read it. 
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